Sunday, October 9, 2011

How to Decrease Kitchen Waste: 101

Blogger inspiration for starting my waste-free kitchen journey: 

When you think of kitchen waste, what comes to mind? 

 I’m guessing food.  Yes food is a huge waste that adds a bulk to your garbage bag that turns against you rather quickly.  But what else?  If you live in a town that recycles, first off, hooray for you, but secondly, weekly recycling doesn’t take care of everything.  I’ve heard of some pretty picky towns where only cans, plastic bottles and cardboard is allowed. What about the bread packaging, inside the cereal plastic bag, frozen veggie plastic bags…if you eat cheese, the plastic around the cheese and don’t even get me started on PLASTIC BAGGIES.  The list goes on and on in the plastic department.  What about paper towels and napkins?  Foil?  Styrofoam?  The wrapping from your deli meat?   

These are all sources of unwanted waste.  I say unwanted because the recycle folks don’t want this stuff.  So it goes in the landfill

My kitchen waste revelation came one day a few years ago when my garbage can smelled so horrid I just couldn’t take it any more…okay, enough is enough.  We didn’t use those hefty plastic bags, we used recycled brown paper bags from our weekly grocery shopping for our garbage, so all our food waste and other gunk was exposed and oh boy it started to take on a life all its own.    

I said to myself…I know I can do better!

I started very, very slow and assessed my waste.  Food was at the top of the list so I started there and slowly worked my down the list finding alternatives and replacing old habits with environmentally frienldy behaviors.  So if you are new to the concept of decreasing kitchen waste, please see below for some very easy ideas to get you going on your journey.  

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#1
Problem: food scraps   
Solution: compost

*We made a very modest 5×5 box out of redwood in our backyard and started to pile in our uncooked kitchen waste with equal parts carbon and nitrogen.  And I read this quick, simple guide to composting.  There are so many other composting ideas, many I found in the book, but you can also research on-line and find what works best for you.  For example, we are going to start a worm bin soon for our cooked food waste!  

 
#2
Problemplastic baggies
Solution: Stop buying & find eco-friendly alternatives

*Okay, let’s be real for a moment.  Plastic baggies are a hell-of-a-convenience, and if you have kids, well, they may feel like a must-have necessity.  It was difficult, but these were #2 on the list to go for me.  I stopped buying them and looked for alternatives.  

 
~Here are some easy replacement ideas~
 
a.  WasteNot Saks are the most amazing, wonderful alternative to plastic baggies.  I’ve had mine for nearly 5 years and they have held up great.  The design is fantastic and my kids can use them with ease.  
 
b.  SnackTAXI makes a fantastic sandwich pack.  They have not failed me yet.  I also used them for snacks, but they don’t seal all the way across like WasteNot Saks, so they are best for large items such as sandwiches.
 
c.  CareBags are by far my favorite thing found to replace plastic produce bags: see post here.  Here is a good post on the dangers of plastic bags.  Eye opening. 
 
d. Lunch Bots is by far my favorite stainless steel alternative.  My daughter and son use these daily for snacks.  These are my faves.

e.  ECOlunchbox three-in-one.  My daughter takes this for her lunch.  It’s lightweight and easy for little hands to use and maneuver. 
 
#3
Problem: Alternative-milk containers 
Solution: Make your own milk alternatives

*This solution is three-fold.  First of all, milk alternatives are EXPENSIVE.  I did the math and I started saving serious money when I stopped buying packaged milks and started making my own.  Second, you have total and complete control of the ingredients when you make your own milks – awesome for you!   Third, and let’s be honest here, those milk alternative containers are not recyclable.  I shed a tear of guilt every time I had to throw away those huge cartons.  Okay, so problem solved.  Making your own nut milks is so super easy.  I make the following: almond milk, cashew milk, hemp milk and hazelnut milk.  You can find a slew of how-to videos on the internet.  And you don’t technically need an expensive high-speed blender to make these milks.  Before I purchased my vitamix, I used a Ninja Blender for years and it worked fine.  Don’t be detoured my friends!! 

 
#4
Problem: paper waste   
Solution: Stop buying & find eco-friendly alternatives

*Ahhh, this was so hard at first!  I had a very unhealthy addiction to paper towels.  I would use them for everything…if I had them I would go through them like crazy.  I had zero control.  So one day I just stopped buying them and also stopped buying paper napkins.  

~Here are some easy replacement ideas~
 
a.  Use cloth napkins opposed to paper napkins
 
b.  Use a cloth for cleaning the counter top, stove and other non-dish elements in your kitchen
 
c.  Cut up old t-shirts and use them for dusting
 
d.  Purchase a sponge you can wash in the washing machine multiple times before throwing away
 
#5
Problem: Foil
Solution: Alternative products

*I used foil for so many things in my kitchen.  This was difficult at first too.  I tried very hard to clean the foil and recycle it, but it didn’t always work.  And my philosophy wasn’t, “well, it’s okay to throw it away once in a while,” it was to “never again throw anymore foil away into garbage ever again.”   

 
~Here are some easy replacement ideas~
 
a.  Use a baking sheet on top of dishes that require covering in the oven.
 
b.  Purchase a silicone mat for non-stick baking & roasting
(I also use a silicon mat instead of parchment paper for rolling out gluten-free dough).
 
c.  Use glass bakeware opposed to a baking sheet that requires foil for roasting.
 
d.  Use parchment paper if you need to wrap something up to bake in the oven (like fish).  This unbleached parchment paper is the best! And…IT’S COMPOSTABLE!! 
 
#6
Problem: Packaging from meat in the deli
Solution: Glass storage 

One day I purchased a pork shoulder from the meat deli at our Coop and I was appalled when I got home, unrolled it, and saw how much paper and plastic waste was from this single (albeit rather large) portion of meat.  My next trip to the coop I was equipped with my snap glass and Pyrex storage.  It takes some planning, but if you know what you are going to be purchasing it’s not a problem – plus I highly recommend going to the grocery store with a plan and a list.  This saves time, energy and money.   

DSC_0054
I generally have one glass storage for sliced deli meat, one for chicken or turkey breasts and one for ground meat.  I am always surprised by how supportive the meat folks are about me bringing my own packaging.  It’s so easy…they just put the glass container on the scale, add the meat, and then subtract the weight. 

Vegetarians can incorporate this concept when purchasing cheese.  Go to your cheese deli and have them slice out what you need into your glass storage.  Then it’s home and into the fridge.  No more fussing with a half (plastic wrapped) block of cheese.
 
Other easy tips you can start incorporating into your daily routine.
 
1.  Take reusable bags to the store….every time! 
 
2.  If you are going out to eat out, or picking up food to go, take a glass container for your food or leftovers…or else they will hand you your food in the most awful material EVER invented.  I cringe at the site of Styrofoam.  Why it is still being used is a mystery to me.  Okay, so just be prepared – think a few steps ahead.  If you are going to Panda Express, just take your own containers.  
 
3.  If you are going to use plastic bags for your garbage, use these compostable garbage bags.  
 
4.  Take your own utensils from home or keep these in your car/bag
 
5.  Glass straws are so wonderful.  And kids love them.  Perfect for getting smoothies on the go.
 
6.  Take a travel mug if you are picking up your coffee on the go.  Also use for smoothies or other drinks that require a wasteful to-go cup, just bring your own.  Again, planning ahead makes these elements so easy to incorporate into your life.  
 
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So, okay.  There we have it.
We feeling good!  We feeling pumped and motivated to get going!  
 
You can do it.  
 
Start small.  As a behaviorist, I completely support the process of small approximations toward a larger goal.  In fact, it’s the optimal way to create behavior change.  So please don’t feel like you have to make huge changes tomorrow.  Go at your own pace.  Have a goal in mind.  Write it down if you must, just know what you are working toward.  
 
Good luck friends!!
 
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Labels: green living, green living tips organization, how to decrease your kitchen waste.

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